Remembering a Sweet Gesture

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A heather light gray sweatshirt sits folded in my dresser drawer. It hasn’t been worn for months. The tag is no longer attached, and the sweatshirt is thinning out from too many washes. As Mother Nature leans into brisk winds and chilly mornings, this sweatshirt beckons to me as it reminds me of a sweet gesture made by a neighbor.

Her name was Joanie. She lived in a maroon brick ranch house across the street from the first house I bought. She was in her seventies with silver-gray hair and a trim, active figure. I would catch glimpses of her in her front yard kneeling in the dirt as she tended to her hostas. 

When I was home more during the summer, I would frequently notice that she had multiple gentlemen visitors—most of whom would be doing work around her house. When I once asked her about it, Joanie laughed and said, “These are men that I met on a dating app. They want to ‘woo’ me, so they do work around my house.” Her husband had passed away years ago, and I remember thinking, “How awesome that you are putting yourself out there.”

When I started dating my now-husband, I introduced him to Joanie, and she invited us over for coffee. When we announced we were expecting, she frequently asked how I was feeling when we passed each other on walks or waved at each other from our yards.

One Saturday afternoon that fall, Joanie showed up at my doorstep. In her arms, she held three unassuming sweatshirts. She simply said, “I was going through my closet and thought you might want these.” She had remembered how I had said my sweatshirts no longer fit and had come bearing some of her own. This was an incredibly sweet gesture from across the street. 

I only kept one of the sweatshirts. It was the only sweatshirt that fit me during my third trimester of pregnancy, and it has now become my faithful companion on autumn and winter nights. It isn’t trendy or cute or even flattering, but it’s what I wear after a grueling day at work when I need to feel wrapped up in comfort.

Now when I wear it for the first time each autumn, I can’t help but wonder, “How is Joanie doing?” She moved away shortly after I had my daughter. Even if our paths never cross again, I’ll always think of her in the fall and her sweet gesture to me as my neighbor.

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